Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner. We met them in Peru 8 years ago, on a GAP Adventures trip. They were from Toronto, too. They listened to CBC, didn’t vote Tory, and loved food – that’s enough in common to form a solid friendship, if you ask me! Having them over was exciting, because they are the kind of people who not only love to eat, but also love to cook, and can understand and appreciate the passion and energy that goes in to making a good meal – which is why we decided to go nuts with a Turkish meze. On the table: hummus, olives, labneh with marash pepper, vegetarian stuffed vine leaves, sigara boregi, mucvar (zucchini fritters), eggplant and pepper salad, shepherd’s salad, lamb kefta, garlic-mint yoghurt, tomato pide, and pomegranate – port gelato. Although I wasn’t pleased with the quality of jarred vine leaves used in the dolmasi, everything else went according to plan and effort, and we ate very well, chasing everything with wine, raki and chay (in that order).
We took the opportunity to snap photographs of our meze spread, and so I thought I would share the recipe for the tomato pide: everyone we serve it to seems to be really impressed, but it’s not all that hard to make. Pide is Turkey’s version of pizza. It’s made with a similar kind of dough, and then various toppings are spread before it is folded over into a boat-shaped pizza, glazed with egg and fragrant nigella, and then baked. I have actually never eaten pide in Turkey. I have eaten greasy but delicious pide on the Danforth in Toronto, horridly greasy and tasteless pide in the Frankfurt airport, and succulent but rich pide in a lovely street-side Turkish restaurant in Vienna (which happened to be the highlight of my 2 days in Vienna…) So all of that is to say that I am not sure how authentic my pide really is. I have made a few modifications to a recipe in my favourite Turkish cookbook: “A Sultan’s Kitchen” by Özcan Ozan; namely, playing around with the dough and changing up the quantity of tomatoes. But what comes out of the oven is delicious, and something anyone could do at home if they just felt like having an alternative to typical pizza. The cheese you will need to use in this recipe is kasseri or kefyloteri. I prefer kasseri, a cheese found in Greek, Turkish, Macedonian and Bulgarian food. The kasseri cheese I buy from Highland Farms is usually from Bulgaria. It’s a sheep’s cheese, which makes this pide really good for lactose-intolerant people, but if you don’t like the taste of sheep’s dairy, you could always do a half-and-half mix with mozzarella. Kasseri cheese is delicious, and not as expensive as kefyloteri.
Recipe (makes 2 large pide):
3-4 cups “00” tipo fino flour (or all-purpose)
4 1/2 tsp Fleischmann’s pizza yeast (or instant yeast)
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup warm milk (or water, if lactose intolerant)
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup minced Spanish onion (or vidalia)
4 minced garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup tomato juice
400 mL (1 regular sized can) of imported, chopped San Marzano tomatoes
generous pinch of Turkish paprika (optional)
grated kasseri cheese (approximately 1 cup, but to your taste preference)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Marash pepper, or substitute Aleppo pepper or crushed chili pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp nigella seeds
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
sea salt (optional)
Start the dough before the sauce. If you are using pizza yeast, it should take about 30-45 minutes to rise. Preheat your milk to a warm – but not hot – temperature. Mix 2 cups of the flour in a bowl with the yeast, sugar and salt. Stir in the warm milk and blend with a wooden spoon. Add the olive oil and continue to mix until you have a smooth mixture. Begin adding the remaining flour. You will need to get rid of the spoon and use your hands now: fold in the flour about 1/4 cup at a time and knead. Stop adding flour when you have a soft, warm and moist dough that is not too sticky but not too dry. Form a ball with the dough and leave it to rise for about half an hour, covering the bowl with a dampened tea towel.
Meanwhile, start your sauce. Heat the olive oil and add the onion, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, tomato juice and paprika (if using). Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave covered until ready to use.
Grate the cheese and set aside; mix the spice topping in a bowl and set aside.
When the dough has risen to about double in size, and pressing on it leaves an imprint, it is ready. Punch it down, role it out into 2 long oval shapes instead of your typical round pizza shape. Set them on your baking sheet or pizza stone (I always do this on a pizza stone; just make sure to spread cornmeal over the stone, first – and keep in mind a stone is only able to handle one pide at a time, so you will have to do two batches).
Spread the sauce over the dough, leaving an edge of about 3-4 cm all the way around. Sprinkle the grated kasseri cheese over top (you do not need to cover the pide as you would with a pizza). Now, fold in the edge and pinch together the two ends so that you have a boat shape. Using a pastry brush or soft spatula, spread the egg mixture generously over the edge of the pide. You can drizzle any leftovers in between the cheese if you wish, but I usually do not. Sprinkle the nigella and sesame seeds liberally over the glazed edges.
Put the pide in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the edges of the pide are a dark, golden colour. Remove the pide and then evenly sprinkle the spice mixture on top (I find a tea strainer works really well with this, as long as your oregano is crumbled finely enough).
It is ready to eat, and can be sliced in long, diagonal strips. * If you only want to make 1 pide at a time (one pide will serve two as a main, or 4 as a side dish) you can freeze the tomato sauce, and just cut the dough recipe in half. The spice topping can be stored for several weeks in an airtight container.